For the past ten years, Woods Wheatcroft has been delivering unique images with a singular vision and heartfelt creativity to Aurora Photos. Woods’ work blends humor, sentiment, spirit, and spontaneity in a style that stands out from the pack. Recently Woods passed the 3000 image mark in the highly curated Aurora Collection — a testament to both his longevity and the quality of his photography. We took the occasion to ask Woods about his style and the methodology that brought him from 0 to 3000.
Aurora Photos: Your body of work is an interesting balance between candid found moments and situations that you create, and yet your style is consistent through and through. How do you maintain that consistent style when shooting with these different methods?
Woods Wheatcroft: The consistency of style and the blending of the methods is a result of trusting my eye and plaicng myself in situtations that ring true to me. For example, I stopped shooting sporting events because there is no reflective truth in the subject matter for me any longer… Candid moments are about being prepared and sometimes lucky and trusting that the moment that happens is front of me is the one intended for me to capture. The candid moments find me like they find anyone else. Being ready, having your camera with you and timing are all crucial ingredients. In the situations that I create, I work with close friends and willing creative people to create a controlled environment then allow it to come apart. As the controlled arena dissolves, there are inherently candid moments. Those are the ones I’m after.
[Au]: In addition to humor, there is a heartfelt sentimentality to much of your work. What other messages or meaning do you try to convey through your pictures?
WW: I like to generate an element of comfort in my pictures, trust if you will. I like the subject to be comfortable, open, free, trusting. I consider myself an affable person. Make people feel comfortable in front of the camera and that translates to how the photo, the moment, the image feels in the end. You can always spot discomfort and stiffness… I believe as photographers we can break that down. We have our tools. So when you ask about other messages and meaning in my photography words that come to mind include: lighthearted, openness, free spirited, fun and genuine.
[Au]: Can you talk a little bit about your process — when you are coming up with a concept for a set of images, how much of the shoot is scripted or really planned out for a given situation. How much improvisation happens in the course of shooting? Are you ever surprised by the results?
WW: I create a controlled creative space at first and then bust out from there. So it is scripted in some sense, in that i provide the scenarios, but really truly I am after the in between moments as it either comes together or breaks apart. Thee is always lots of improvisation. Tons. I’m after the surprise, so yes, I am always surprised by the results.
[Au]: Your photographic style is distinctive. I feel like when I’m looking through the Aurora archive, I can spot a Woods Wheatcroft photo almost immediately among other images. What advice would you have for other photographers on developing and nurturing their own style?
WW: Do your best to create the most honest reflection of how you see the world through how you live your life. Share this truth and intimacy. Many of my photos look very genuine…that’s because they are…and that’s because what i am doing or what someone very close to me is doing at that time is really what is happening!! And of course, the advice I was given a long time ago… Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. One of the only ways I see to hone your style is to practice and for photographers that means shooting. A lot. A style will eventually rise to the top of the pile.
[Au]: You did a great portrait project of people and their bikes. Do you have a favorite bike story?
WW: There’s no one favorite bike story other than the fact that the longer I worked on the bike project, the longer it took to get a portrait. I really started to get to know the people and it was an awesome feeling to dive in and befriend total strangers on their bikes and celebrate a mutual love of the freedom of two wheels.
[Au]: If you weren’t making pictures, what would you be doing?
WW: If I weren’t making pictures I would be making something else: food, art, shelter, friends, memories, and more experiences that take me down this precious road of life.